Former inmates use government-sponsored job fair for a shot at a real second chance

Out of prison, out of work

ROCK HILL, S.C. (WBTV) - We know the frustrations that are tied to trying to find a job. Making a resume to sell yourself seems like one of the smaller obstacles. Not, if you’re a former prison inmate and have no working experience.

Each year, more than 22,000 inmates are released from North Carolina state prisons. When they get out of prison, many of them find themselves out of work.

Government officials are pushing to change that at a time when there is little to no hope for some former inmates. They’ve paid their debt to society by being locked up, but to them, they still feel like they’re in prison by the way they’re treated.

“I have a target on my back because everybody knows where I just came from,” said Tariq Abdulaleem, a former inmate.

After a 30-year sentence for selling crack cocaine when he was 24, Abdulaleem is fresh out of a South Carolina prison and trying to rebrand himself -- that starts with getting a job.

“Once a criminal, not always a criminal,” Abdulaleem said.

He says hiring managers only see him for his conviction when they run a background check on him. With no money to live, it’s his past life on the streets that haunts him. Dealing drugs is no longer an option for Abdulaleem, but he says it was just a crime that allowed him to provide. It’s what a lot of men around him were doing when he was growing up.

“You have to eat. The people who you live with whether it’s our moms, brother or whatever, they want rent money,” he said.

Abdulaleem, who’ll turn 52 next year, is taking full advantage of companies who are trying to give former inmates like him a real second chance: a full-time job, with benefits without the extra judgment.

“My time clock is ticking, so I can’t be choosy. Whatever door opens up for me, I have to walk into it,” he continued.

He’s not handing out his resume in Rock Hill. He doesn’t have one. He’s handing out promises.

“The only thing I have to bring to the table is that I’m a hard worker," said Abdulaleem.

On top of the employers offering potential jobs to former inmates, information about expungements and pardons were also available at the job fair. A one-stop-shop to getting back on their feet.

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